Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest ruling monarch (1946-2016) is no more. He was no ordinary king. A fine inventor and innovator, he deployed many of his inventions for development. The King owned over 20 patents and 19 trademarks, most of which are tools and techniques for rural development projects. In order to counter drought in his country, which was crippling farmers, he spent years researching cloud-seeing techniques and used his own money to launch the ‘Royal Rainmaking Project’. His 'Super Sandwich' technique of cloud seeding not only got him a European patent and scores of international awards but earned him the epithet of "Father of Royal Rain-Making" from his subjects who loved him dearly. Last year, Australia's Queensland requested Thailand to share this rain-making technology to counter its drought and collaboration between Thailand and Australia was started. Other countries that have benefited from the Thailand King’s sustainability technologies are Laos and Lesotho.
The Chaipattana aerator was another of the King’s popular inventions. This was developed as a low-cost solution to help address water pollution in rivers, canals, swamps and marshes. The Chaipattana aerator is used in many locations including Bangkok's Makasan lagoon, initiated by His Majesty the King himself, and in Ayutthaya's Bangpa-in Palace, implemented with cooperation from the German business community. Today, the aerators (which won many innovation awards) are widely used to treat water in both Bangkok and rural areas.
Other royal inventions attributed to the King include water purification devices, a liquid-propelled engine for small boats, as well as techniques for conversion of palm oil into palm diesel as an alternative source of energy, and techniques to revitalise acidic soil.
The King was also a jazz saxophonist. It was while he was studying in Switzerland that he got news of the death of his elder brother King Ananda Mahidol in Bangkok on June 9, 1946. It was time to take on a huge responsibility. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and educated in Switzerland, but the King’s karmabhumi lay in his own country. Years later, he recalled that a man who called out to him from a crowd: “Don’t desert your people” had a big impact in making him come back to his people. He even met the man who told him this 20 years later.
I mourn with the Thais at the passing of a great monarch. He had his faults but he was loved. I am not sure if monarchy will survive after this death because his heir Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has not struck much of a chord with the people. I believe the Indic institution of monarchy in its ideal form where the royals and their subjects understand their dharma, has always been an effective way of maintaining peace, harmony, cultural traditions and balance between environment and commerce.
Almost every home, office and public building in Thailand is adorned with portraits of His Majesty and other members of the Royal Family. Scenes of the King seated on the ground or standing with his subjects and listening to their problems are etched in the memories of people.
Apart from the political struggle that will follow, I also worry about the Christian missionaries who are waiting on the sidelines for the death of this King whose remarkable influence prevented evangelists from making significant inroads into Thailand. I remember reading several articles by missionaries who were wondering how to break the devotion for the King as well as Buddha and get the people into the Christian fold. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-c-stiller/the-difficulty-of-evangelizing-in-thailand_b_3237160.html) Thailand has been one of the countries, which has stumped Christian soul harvestors for a long time.
Laa-gàwn (goodbye) dear King, may your love live on to protect and preserve your great country and take it to great heights.